Winkleman Gallery is extremely pleased to present “Being American,” our first solo exhibition by New York artist Sarah Peters. Through her ongoing exploration of the earnestness with which early American artists strived, but often failed, to match the formal achievement of their European counterparts, Peters presents a spellbinding vision of an imagined paradise where the artworks of 18th Century America that missed the mark (often due to their creator’s misreading of an ideal that never really was) went to spend eternity. This invention is presented, in part, as an 18-foot drawing with sweeping vistas of an idyllic countryside populated with the specters of those naively rendered sculptures, overly ornate memorial urns, and a host of peculiar characters. In spite of the shared awkwardness or failure that defines this landscape, however, its overriding sensibility is one of utter bliss.
Other smaller drawings focus on particular individuals or settings, each more eccentric than the next. With hints of preternatural forces and all the earthly delights one would hope to find in paradise, these images suggest they might have been the ones edited out of the Peale family scrapbook. Standing watch over the exhibition is Peter’s self-portrait, a bust à la the terra cotta self-portrait of the first classical American sculptor, William Rush, with his head emerging from a log. Clearly pained by the fruits of her labor, the grimaced artist nonetheless looks patient and perhaps even hopeful that some viewer will see that the journey taken to this place was its own triumph.
Sarah Peters credits her fascination with early American art to her study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, in Philadelphia. She completed her BFA at the University of Pennsylvania, and her MFA in Sculpture at the Virginia Commonwealth University. This is Sarah’s first solo exhibition in New York.